How marketers can ensure their voice is heard by the rest of the C-suite

Marketers often complain they are not taken seriously by the rest of their business, seen as doing the fluffy, creative stuff rather than leading on strategic thinking, so what can CMOs do to ensure the rest of the C-suite listens?

Marketers have long been trying to shake off their ‘colouring-in department’ image and prove their value in the boardroom. But the only way that can happen is if CMOs are taken seriously by the rest of the C-suite and that comes from explaining the commercial value of marketing, understanding the wider business challenges and talking the language of the boardroom.

For Alex Naylor, marketing director at Barclaycard, it is key to shift the conversation so marketing is seen as an enabler that can help others around the table achieve their goals.

“The key thing is to talk to them about how you can help to achieve their objectives rather than trying to convince them to help you achieve yours,” he says.

He believes business leaders often see marketing as a tax on their business so it is the job of marketers to change that perception. “Once they see it as something they own then they’ll be prepared to invest in it,” he adds.

Naylor was one of a number of marketers who joined Marketing Week at an event held by Oystercatchers to discuss the biggest challenges facing marketing leaders today.

Similarly, BT Group’s CMO Zaid Al-Qassab, suggests marketers need to show they care about other departments’ challenges.

“If you’re myopically focused on just the marketing then you won’t be taken seriously,” he says. “You need to understand everything about the finances of the business, about how the sales channels are working, about the HR problems and the organisational opportunities. You need to understand the whole thing.”

READ MORE: The skills CMOs must invest in today to ensure they stay at the top

Meanwhile, Deborah Dolce, who is senior vice-president and group brand & marketing director at TJX Europe, which owns TK Maxx, says it’s incumbent on marketers to prove the commercial value of marketing so it is not just seen as a cost.

“To be effective in the C-suite, clearly it’s going to be about relationships and a business approach that can showcase the impact that marketing can have on the commercial side of the business,” she says.

Encouraging open debate and discussion is the advice of Disney’s vice-president of digital marketing and CRM for EMEA, Tony Miller, who believes marketers need to back up everything they say with data.

“Whether it’s about proving return on investment of that marketing value through brand engagement or customer satisfaction or sales, having the data and letting that help guide those conversations [is crucial].”

For more from these top marketers, and additional insight from Unilever CMO Keith Weed, Topgolf International president Troy Warfield and John Rudaizky, partner and global brand and marketing leader at EY, watch the video above.

All of these marketers will also feature in a photography exhibition curated by Oystercatchers and shot by renowned photographer Rankin as part of the C-suite leadership programme at the Festival of Marketing on 10 and 11 October. For more information and to buy tickets go to